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Are White Feminists MIA on Racist Misogynist Police Violence?

Sikivu Hutchinson: Often living in wealthier neighborhoods, white women can rely on the police as a thin blue line insulating them from the visceral threat of the dark other.

The Oklahoma NAACP recently called on the Department of Justice to investigate accused rapist and Oklahoma City Police officer Daniel Holtzclaw for federal hate crime violations against his black women victims. On September 5th, Holtzclaw was released on bail after being charged with 16 counts of rape, sexual assault, stalking and sodomy.

Racist Police Violence

Judge Tim Henderson (who is running for reelection unopposed) reduced Holtzclaw’s bail from $5 million to $500,000 and required him to wear an ankle bracelet while on paid leave. With this unconscionable decision Henderson simply made clear the historical legacy of the law when it comes to black women and their moral character—namely that black women are sexually promiscuous "hos" with no rights that a white supremacist criminal justice system are bound to respect.

Racist Police Violence

Claudette Colvin

Actress Daniele Watts discovered this last week when she was pulled over, interrogated and handcuffed by Studio City Police after kissing her white partner while they were parked in the lot of a CBS station. Watts had the temerity to display affection in an affluent area where a black woman with a white man could never be anything other than a prostitute.

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The murder of Michael Brown and uprisings in Ferguson refocused national attention on institutionalized police violence in African American communities. Yet police violence and terrorism against women of color are rarely on the agendas of mainstream white feminist organizations. Because white women of all classes enjoy the privilege of protection from criminalization and systemic brutality by law enforcement, state-sanctioned violence doesn’t register as a “feminist” priority. Living in neighborhoods that are on average more wealthy than communities of color, white women can rely on the police as a thin blue line insulating them from the visceral threat of the dark other.

Historically, the police have been critical to preserving the purity of white womanhood by not only promoting the image of the insatiable black rapist but that of the out of control black bitch. The pervasiveness of sexual assault, often by law enforcement, was a major catalyst for black women’s civil rights activism. In 1955, teenage civil rights activist Claudette Colvin was sexually harassed by white police officers in jail after she was arrested for refusing to give her seat to a white person on a Jim Crow bus in Montgomery, Alabama.


Sikivu Hutchinson
The Feminist Wire